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Islanders 5, Flames 2: DiPietro, Nielsen hurt; Lawson, Tavares/Moulson steal show

You just can't script it any better: The first game after Dwayne Roloson is traded, with Calgary native Nathan Lawson called up for good mid-road trip to be the new backup, Rick DiPietro gets hurt (adductor strain, not knee), forcing Lawson into the game cold in a winning situation that still required 28 saves on 29 shots in front of his family, with his mother in tears of pride by game's end for how far her 27-year-old rookie has come.

Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsi - H2H | Recaps: NHL - M&G - Isles

Final - 1.3.2011 1 2 3 Total
New York Islanders 3 1 1 5
Calgary Flames 1 1 0 2

Complete Coverage >

I'll fess up to "You've GOT to be Avery-ing me!" panic when I first saw DiPietro go down. Those were some acrobatic moves on the PK that led to the injury, and he managed in the moment well. It's good it wasn't a re-injury, though -- the Isles need him to PLAY, to test the durability of those repaired joints. But with the damage apparently not of the catastrophic kind, I could resume focus on the nice stories.

Like the Lawson story (alas, in the NHL's baseball pitcher win/loss style accounting, he gets no credit for the win). Like John Tavares and Matt Moulson resuming their battle for the team goal-scoring lead. And Tavares unleashing both a sweet backhand roofer and a sniping wrister like he was born to do, with celebrations afterward that betray he is starting to "feel it" in terms of how to produce in this league. Frans Nielsen's injury, according to Katie Strang, is a groin strain; so I'll withhold panic there (really, I can do it!) and just enjoy the night. The Islanders are on a 7-1-1 run, with just one of those wins coming via crapshoot shootout.

Game Highlights

Notes while Feeling Good for Lawson

Thankfully the Isles got out to that early big lead -- well-earned, even if the Flames dressing their backup Henrik Karlsson (stats after tonight: .894%, 2.74 GAA) was an important factor. The second half of the game was a fire drill. Jack Capuano called an early timeout, and it may have helped, but it didn't prevent this team from having to survive a barrage. Still: Finding ways to win, taking the opening the opponent gives you.

Here was Brent Sutter:

"We showed up halfway through the game. The first 30 minutes was missed," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "You're looking at two different hockey games. A game we can't play and a game we're better at.

"We weren't assertive. We didn't respect our opponent enough."

If the Flames didn't respect their it a coaching or player issue over there? The Isles are just the 29th-place Isles, but they arrived in Alberta on a bit of a hot streak.

  • Seriously. How cool was that scenario for Lawson? He didn't just do mop-up duty -- he made some huge saves to preserve the win. This guy has taken the loooong road to his NHL moment.
  • Too fantastic to see Tavares roof that backhander early on the powerplay. Took my breath away. I noticed the Flames didn't leave that doorstep open again for JT all night. So he did what stars -- that's what we hope he'll become -- do: He scored his next one from out at the faceoff circle.
  • Matt Moulson is now up to 14 goals in 37 games. Don't look now, but he's still on pace for 30 goals again. His agent smiles, and Isles fans get nervous.
  • Moulson's tip on his second goal was pretty fantastic. Fun for a moment to read the on-ice body language as they communicated that no, it wasn't Travis Hamonic's first NHL goal -- rather another NHL point for the rookie. (By the way, Moulson's first goal, getting his blade on it in tight by his skate off the pass from P.A. Parenteau, wasn't too shabby.)
  • I like to hear this approach from Tavares: "Things are starting to pay off. We're starting to find that chemistry. We're just outworking other teams. We keep stressing how we need to be better each and every day. We'll do the same thing next game. We've got to be better."
  • I said it before the game, before the injury, but I still don't want Michael Leighton. He's had one hot run in his career, he's had injury issues this year, and he's on a contract through next season. If DiPietro's injury is minor and short-term, then claiming Leighton now would create another organizational logjam in a few weeks. They need DP back and to test him, to learn how to proceed beyond this year. For me, Leighton and his contract are not an answer -- Leighton is not Roloson -- unless they determine that DP will be out a while. Leighton has been tossed up and down waivers before; I suppose if it's serious they could do the same with him once the need was gone.
  • Speaking of DP: Good call to take him out. Looked like the training staff helped convince him to leave the game. For one, you've got a preservable lead. For another, no point risking a worse injury while "toughing it out." And finally: It's Lawson's hometown! Let him have a night like this, and everybody wins.
  • On the Roloson move: Call me blind, but I still don't see it as a "big risk" even after tonight. Most organizations have four goalies between the NHL and the AHL. The Isles were odd for having five. They had five for a special reason, which was tangentially exposed -- not for the reason expected -- tonight. But that special reason is also why they need to use the upcoming second half of this season to learn what they have in DiPietro.
  • That Flames fourth line featuring Tim Jackman! What a fourth line should be. Flames blog Matchsticks & Gasoline had them at +16 in terms of scoring chance differential at EV and +38 in Corsi. Apparently they've scored more of the teams goals in recent weeks than the top line. Good for Jackman. With the win, it adds to my fan feel-good feelings.

How we feeling now, Isles fans? I'm always one to point out streaks happen, in both directions, so don't read a giant forecast into it. But even in 29th place, winning runs are fun. With or without injury.